A US court has ordered four cruise companies to pay over $450 million for their use of a Havana port seized by the Cuban government in 1960. A federal judge in Florida has decreed that Carnival, MSC SA, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian must each pay $109 million plus legal expenses to Havana Docks, the American corporation that owned the concession to use that facility. Following the communist revolution on the Caribbean island, Havana Docks was denied the authority to utilize the port.
The court found that the defendants, all of whom made port stops in Havana, had “derived significant amounts of revenue – in the hundreds of millions of dollars each – from their wrongful trafficking activities, and to the plaintiff’s detriment,” Judge Beth Bloom wrote.
Since 1962, the United States has enforced an economic blockade on the island. In 2016, President Barack Obama relaxed the restrictions, enabling cruise ships to make stops in Cuba, but his successor, Republican Donald Trump, rescinded this decision. The latest judgment is not based on the embargo, but on a section of the Helms-Burton Act from 1996 that has been dormant until recently.
At the time, the U.S. Congress wished to discourage investment in Cuba by permitting any American whose property had been expropriated by the Castro administration to sue anyone who had benefited from its usage. However, previous American presidents have postponed the measure’s implementation until Trump chose in 2019 to allow it to take effect.
Following a flurry of legal proceedings, the case involving the cruise companies — all of which are registered in different countries but have a significant presence in Florida — is the first to conclude. Judge Bloom found the four cruise lines guilty of “trafficking” and “prohibited tourism” in March. On December 30th, she announced their penalties.